Japan, South Korea and the legacy of a tangled history

Centuries of rivalry, dynastic politics and Trumpian disruption combine to threaten the present East Asian order

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In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as liberal democracies in East Asia, they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2019, with the headline Japan, South Korea and the legacy of a tangled history. Subscribe